Arizona forward Derrick Williams played the final two months of his sophomore season with his right pinkie in a cast-like wrap with what the team said was a sprain.
Turns out, Williams' littlest digit was broken and he, and the team, didn't want anyone to know.
"I think that if you tell people that you're injured, then people on the other team go after your injuries more, like intentionally slapping my hand when I'd go up for a shot, or something like that," Williams said Wednesday. "I was just trying to keep it under wraps, trying to keep as much padding on it as possible. Playing with three fingers, obviously there was something wrong."
Williams broke his finger on Jan. 27, when it got bent backward during a game against UCLA. He didn't miss a game, opting to play with his pinkie sealed in a large wrap of gauze and bandages that made his hand look like a toy gun.
Williams didn't seem to be bothered by the wrap, playing some of his best games down the stretch while shooting left-handed and with essentially three fingers on his right. He averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 59 percent to lead the Wildcats to the West Regional final in the NCAA tournament after they missed the bracket the season before.
The multi-talented 6-foot-8 forward said he would have needed surgery had the fracture been a half-inch lower and that there was concern that he might damage it further if he continued to play, but it was worth taking the chance.
"There's a risk to that, but it didn't affect me," he said. "If I had to sit out, I would sit out, but I wasn't going to sit out if there was no reason. I just wanted to continue to play with my teammates for as long as I could."
Williams declared for the NBA draft earlier this month and is projected as a lottery pick. Now that word's out he played with a broken finger, his status might even go up a little.
"I think it really helps me, the draft stock, saying that I was basically playing with a cast on my hand; just using my left hand whenever I could, except for shooting 3s and free throws," Williams said. "Being able to use both hands during the season, for a good part of the season, I think really helped my draft stock."
The Pac-10 player of the year and a Wooden Award finalist, Williams said he considered the threat of injury in making his decision to declare for the NBA, though it wasn't a major factor. He also considered the potential lockout the NBA faces, but still decided it was worth coming out.
"I heard it all through the season, even before I was supposedly a top-five pick," he said. "At the end of the day, a top-five pick is still going to be a top-five pick going on two, three years later. Just all the feedback I'm getting is that there's going to be a season next season. It might just be delayed a little bit."
Williams, who's from Southern California, said if there is a lockout, he likely will head back to Tucson to continue working toward his degree, which he promised his mother he'd finish.